I am a gym member.
That I said, I think gyms might be the silliest places on Earth. We go to pretend we’re working while actually suffering, and reaping benefit for ourselves but nobody else.
It’s remarkable that there is such a large class of citizens with the leisure to sustain the scale of gyms that exist. Can you imagine folks in the village years ago saying, “Splendid 14 hour day of dragging timber to build the hall Smithy! Shall we go hoist stones for no reason now?” Today would you approach a steelworker or a farmer or a coal miner and ask if they wanted to go pump some iron?
Living on Blue House Farm I got to witness the transformation as apprentices showed up in the spring all pale and squishy only to brown and become lean and ripped by mid-summer.
That’s what I hearken back to when I’m in the gym. Doing some rowing, hmm, feels like hoeing, except much more isolated and brief. I have to hit a whole row of machines to hint at weeding a bed of garlic.
Why do this? Because I have a physical form that’s capable of useful and fun physical acts provided it’s properly conditioned, and because that conditioning confers physical and emotional health? Heck yeah. Because it theoretically makes me more attractive to potential mates? Well…maybe. And probably because it’s the most accessible.
So even though my farmer friends way down south could use help busting up and hauling off concrete, I’ll still report to the gym to pick up metal and put it down again.
What I won’t do, however, is go anywhere near the cardio machines. A cardiovascular workout is of course vital, and if it’s a -30 degree snowpocalypse outside, fine. Let’s watch some CNN and run while going nowhere. But on a gorgeous evening, rain or shine, there’s no way I can yield loping along street or trail with all the sounds and smells and sweat and fresh air and getting chased by dogs in order to climb a massive flight of stairs 2 feet high.
Maybe you’re injured and you really benefit from the elliptical, okay fine. And if you want to swim, even my anachronistic mind can’t really propose jumping in the Willamette River for a workout, so it’s great the pool’s there.
It just strikes me how much time and energy we put into re-creating the natural human experience. We’re stuck inside all day sitting in front of machines as students or employees, and then we go to another inside place to use more machines to get strong, then we go to another place to have cancer light beamed on us to make it look like we were outside, then we go home and ingest complicated and expensive supplements since the stuff we eat isn’t even food.
Am I proposing we all move out to the farm and eat whole organic meals after our days of labor? Could be fun, but perhaps not practical. But wouldn’t it be dandy if our daily living got to reflect essential human truths a little more? I don’t think anybody decided being healthy and fit sucks and it would be better to be like the people on Wall-E.
But how is it we have schools with ever-diminishing PE programs, and work environments without any physicality at all? If it’s in the name of productivity that’s bullhonky, since studies show what we already know, productivity goes way up when you actually act like a human and not a machine. Maybe it’ll be my job to bust into offices to lead guerilla calisthenics classes.